Painted Ponies traces the lives of nine individuals, five men, four women, across three decades, from their senior year in high school until they reach the age when their own children are seniors in high school. The locale is a small (12,000) town in southwestern Kentucky, the time is the late thirties to the late sixties of this century.
The first three chapters introduce the characters, shows the differences in their personalities and outlooks, and suggests the futures which they seek. The remaining nine chapters takes these individuals through college, World War II, readjustment to civilian life and to meeting the different circumstance which face each of them. During the course of events, one of the characters dies in the war, one commits suicide several years later, one dies of a heart attack at a Rotary luncheon and the other six face various problems and joys in the course of living. Of the seven marriages described, three are happy, one of the three ecstatically so, and four disastrous.
The value of the book lies in portraying the details of that period and what American life was like in a small town. The background mentions songs and musicians, films and movie stars of the period; gives descriptions of the town's courthouse square and the homes in which people lived; and is colored most of all by experiences I encountered during those years.
The book tells what teenagers of the thirties did and thought. It follows them through college life before World War II, of wartime marriages hastily entered into, and portrays scenes of the war itself. It tells of a three day leave in New York city, describing the plays on Broadway, the Stage Door Canteen and Frank Sinatra in a nightclub act at the Astoria Hotel. It also shows what a blacked-out Piccadilly Circus was like in war time London.
As a sailor in the Amphibious Branch of the Navy I kept a journal and some of that material is used in describing a journey across the North Atlantic in a convoy of sixty ships for a period of 22 days on a flat bottom LST (Landing Ship Tank) during the winter of 44. The book describes barracks life in England and of the part small craft played in landing soldiers on the beach at D day.
A picture such as this of American life in those decades might be of value in future times. For me, the second value of the book lies in four of the nine characters becoming real persons with whom readers can empathize. The theme of the story implies life is a merry-go-round each of us must ride and each on a different pony.